The top 50 wines of 2013

Wine editor Jo Burzynska’s guide to the 2013 not-to-be-missed bottles on the market

Viva's top 50 wine list for 2013. Photo / Thinkstock
Viva's top 50 wine list for 2013. Photo / Thinkstock

CREAM OF THE CROP

Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2010 - $104.50

It took Mike Weersing years to find the perfect place to plant his home vineyard and now the fruits of his very special site in North Canterbury's Pyramid Valley are really starting to thrill. Farmed biodynamically, the estate spans two limestone-rich slopes, and the Angel Flower hails from its north-facing incline. Gossamerlike, the wine unfurls to reveal notes of delicate red fruits, rose and minerals. An ethereal and perfumed pinot noir that's one of the country's finest examples. (From GreatLittleVineyards.com, Accent on Wine, Wine Direct.)

Dog Point Vineyard Section 94 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 - $34

Made by former Cloudy Bay folk, Ivan Sutherland and James Healy, Section 94 swiftly established itself as one of the country's flagship sauvignon blancs.

It's a powerful style with an intense palate of succulent passionfruit and hints of smoke wrapped around a taut core of lime and flint. (From Caro's, Farro Fresh, Glengarry, New World Devonport, Liquorland Massey Ave, Newmarket and Forest Hill; Bacchus Cellars, Hamilton Wine Company, Grantley's Liquor Merchants.)

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2010 - $50

In the somewhat unlikely location of Kumeu, northwest of Auckland, master of wine Michael Brajkovich has been making some of New Zealand's most refined chardonnays. The Hunting Hill is from a single vineyard site, which in the 2010 vintage has produced one of its most impressive wines to date with its intense notes of grapefruit, mineral and honeysuckle and Brajkovich's seasoning of well-judged toasty oak. (From stockists including Glengarry, Fine Wine Delivery Company, Wine & More, Wine Circle, First Glass.)

Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2010 - $120

Another great vintage of Trinity Hill's flagship wine, Homage is now made from fruit off vines 18 years old. It's silky and savoury, with dense but elegantly fresh black fruit infused with floral, black olive, leather and black pepper notes. (From Glengarry, Liquor King.)

Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Hawke's Bay Cabernet Merlot 2009 - $45

A beautifully harmonious blend that combines richness with restraint from Mills Reef's top "Elspeth" tier of wines. In this 52/48 split between cabernet sauvignon and merlot, black fruits are joined by notes of sandalwood, liquorice and leather backed by mellow tannins. (From Liquorland Northcross, Liquorland Newmarket, Mairangi Bay Fine Wines, Liquor Quay-Princes Wharf, Fine Wine Delivery Company.)

Millton Clos de Ste Anne La Bas Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2009 - $70

Chenin Blanc remains woefully underrated given its ability to produce fantastic wines, both in its heartland in France's Loire region and in New Zealand. Here, Millton has been at the forefront of the variety and has just released the first example from its top Clos de Ste Anne vineyard. Dry with great concentration, it oozes rich notes of honey, almond, wax and buttered toast, reined in by a rapier-like line of lime and mineral. The best chenin I've tried from our shores to date. (From Glengarry, Caro's, Fine Wine Delivery Company, Village Winery, Scenic Cellars, Advintage.)

Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV, Champagne - $90-$95

From one of Champagne's oldest houses, founded in 1729, comes this fantastically fine example made exclusively from chardonnay sourced from the region's grand and premier cru vineyards. Exhilaratingly racy lemony acidity propels its palate of apple, white peach, chamomile, clove spice and mineral that's delivered in seductively creamy mousse. (From Caro's.)

Auburn Shining Dawn Central Otago Riesling 2012 (375ml) - $54

Auburn is unique in New Zealand in making wines solely from riesling. This one-eyed focus has resulted in stunning wines such as this superb sticky. Although it weighs in at just 6 per cent alcohol, there's huge concentration to this botrytised version, which exhibits hedonistic notes of honey, apricot, creme brulee and a powerful lemony acidity that balances its considerable sweetness. (From auburnwines.com)


OUR TOP DROPS

Sauvignon blanc is top of New Zealand's wine charts again by a large margin. Wine drinkers have failed to tire of the distinctive charms of the variety that put the country on the world's wine map and accounts for close to 60 per cent of our vineyard area. Pinot noir has also risen in popularity in recent years to become our favourite local red.

However, we also have a taste for foreign fare with around half of the wines quaffed in the country hailing from overseas.


FIRST-RATE FIZZ

Nautilus Marlborough Cuvee Methode Traditionnelle Brut NV - $37.90-$42

One of the country's finest sparkling wines, the pinot noir-dominant Nautilus Methode Traditionnelle remains on good form with flavours of crisp apple and citrus, over rich layers of yeast and biscuit. (From Glengarry.)

Palliser Estate Methode Traditionnelle 2008 - $48.50

Number 14 in a line of impressive sparkling releases from Martinborough's Palliser, this blend of 53 per cent chardonnay and 47 per cent pinot noir, boasts notes of ripe apple and stone fruits, a brisk lemony acidity and undertones of nut and bread crust. (From First Glass, Liquorland Newmarket, Glengarry.)


GREAT WHITES

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $26.99

Lime, lemon and mineral course through this spine-tingling sauvignon blanc along with nuances of tomato stalk and capsicum, made from grapes sourced from Marlborough's Southern Ben Morven Valley. (Available generally from grocery and fine wine retail outlets.)

Invivo Organic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $22.95

A great organic sauvignon bursting with vibrant gooseberry fruit, green herb and lime with an elegant slaty edge. (From West Harbour Wines & Spirits, Point Wines, Advintage, Colonial Liquor Centre, Glengarry, Liquor King.)

Jules Taylor Barrel Fermented Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 - $29.99

Time in oak has added weight, a creamy texture and a soupcon of toasty spice to this sauvignon blanc from Marlborough's Awatere Valley, without overpowering its attractive notes of gooseberry, zesty grapefruit and river stone. (From Glengarry.)

Astrolabe Marlborough Province Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $20.99

Classic Marlborough sauvignon from this consistently impressive producer with punchy passion fruit, juicy lime, jalapeno and a stylish mineral character. (From Caro's, Farro Fresh, Liquorland, Liquor King, Point Wines, First Glass.)

Zephyr Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - $23

Ex-Wither Hills chief winemaker, Ben Glover is now taking a hands-on role in his family wine business, Zephyr, following his move to the group behind Mud House wines. The Glovers' latest sauvignon is a mouth-filling example, with notes of blackcurrant leaf, lemon grass and flint. (From Wine Direct, zephyrwine.com)

Rod McDonald Quarter Acre Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2011 - $31.99

Crisp and concentrated, this chardonnay, with its notes of fleshy white peach, zesty grapefruit, mineral and spicy peppery nuances, is part of the new personal label of the highly respected ex-Vidal and Matariki winemaker, Rod MacDonald. (From Advintage, GreatLittleVineyards.com)

Forrest Estate Marlborough Chardonnay 2010 - $25

A highly attractive and well priced chardonnay, with rich notes of butterscotch, spice and savoury counterpoised by its fresh core of citrus. (From Boric Food Market, Greenlane Liquor Centre, Meadowbank Wines & Spirits, Point Wines, The Barrow.)

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 - $44.95

Made in a taut and minerally style, Cloudy Bay's sophisticated chardonnay boasts bright notes of grapefruit, pure white peach fruit and a subtle edge of smoky oak. (From all leading fine wine outlets.)

Ostler Lakeside Vineyard Waitaki Valley Pinot Gris 2011 - $29.90

People surmised pinot noir would be the star from the limestone hills of the recently established Waitaki Valley region inland from Oamaru, but its pinot gris is also looking great. This impressively concentrated and oily textured off-dry example hails from a new vineyard on the region's flat river gravel, juxtaposing notes of rich quince stone fruit and nut, with a wonderful freshness. (From Glengarry Victoria Park, Meadowbank Liquor Centre, Point Wines, Fine Wine Delivery Company, The Wine Vault, Wine Circle.)

Blackenbrook Nelson Pinot Gris 2012 - $23

This beguilingly floral pinot gris from Nelson combines weight and freshness in its fragrant palate of fresh pear, white flowers, ginger and grapefruit zest. Vegan and vegetarian wine lovers will be glad to know it's been certified animal-product free by the New Zealand Vegetarian Society. (From Advintage, blackenbrook.co.nz)

Mount Edward Central Otago Pinot Gris 2012 - $25.95

A drier style of pinot gris that nevertheless displays a rich, honeyed palate of quince, white peach, lemon zest and a touch of toastiness. (From Farro Fresh, Accent on Wine, Colonial Liquor Centre.)

Pegasus Bay Waipara Riesling 2010 - $27.95

Top-flight riesling with phenomenal intensity to its palate of peach, honey and lime cordial layered over a savoury flinty core. Its not inconsiderable sweetness is deftly balanced by its zingy acidity, finishing on a lifted fresh and extremely long-lasting minerally note. (From Caro's, Fine Wine Delivery Company, Glengarry, selected Liquorland Stores and fine wine retailers.)

Greystone Waipara Riesling 2011 - $27.95

Another beautifully balanced off-dry Waipara riesling with real poise that combines power and delicacy, wafting aromas of lemon blossom over a powerful base of mineral and zingy grapefruit. (From New World Devonport.)

Eureka Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2011 - $25

Heady notes of Moroccan rose, anise and exotic spices permeate this intoxicatingly aromatic drier style gewurztraminer from this promising new Marlborough producer. (From Fine Wine Delivery Company.)

Stanley Estates Single Vineyard Awatere Valley Marlborough Albarino 2012 - $19.99

The Spanish grape variety, albarino, is be a newcomer to our vineyards (see box), but it's already causing considerable excitement. That's no surprise considering the promise of an example like this, with its fleshy palate of ripe nectarine fruit balanced by crisp grapefruit that leads to a lingering salty mineral finish. (From Caro's, Grapes Liquor Centre, Farro Fresh, Kohi Corner Bottle Shop, Kumeu Cellars, Liquid Experience, Ashore Fine Food and Wines, Wine Circle, Hauraki Corner Cellars, Blend, The Wine Barrel, Fishbone Cafe, Hillsdene Wines, Parua Bay Liquor.)


ALBARINO

This trendy white grape originates in Spain's cool northern Rias Baixas region, where it makes fresh minerally wines, often with a salty edge that makes them a great partner to seafood. Following the fashion, Australia planted what they thought was the variety a little while back, only to find that in error they'd been given cuttings of the obscure savignin grape. Thankfully what New Zealand recently planted in its vineyards is the real deal, and the first wines are starting to be seen on the market from our tiny but promising 20ha.


SUPERLATIVE PINKS

Black Estate Netherwood Waipara Valley Rose 2012 - $23

One of the most intriguing local rosés I've tried to date made from organic chardonnay and pinot noir grown side by side in Black Estate's Netherwood vineyard. These were also fermented together to produce this delicious and deeply coloured dry rosé, with its robust palate of green apple and darker berry fruit overlaid with toasty spicy notes. (From Caro's, blackestate.co.nz)

Woollaston Nelson Pinot Noir Rosé 2012 - $20

Another delicious dry organic rosé that ticks all the right boxes for unbridled easy drinking enjoyment with its juicy strawberry and raspberry fruit, and attractive floral nuances. (From woollaston.co.nz)


REDS AHEAD

Rippon Central Otago Gamay Noir 2012 - $36.50

Rippon is one of the few New Zealand wineries to make a red gamay, and examples like this suggest there's huge potential for the variety in the country should other wineries rise to the challenge. It's a joyously drinkable wine that fuses lively berry fruit with bright florals. As this biodynamic estate has added no sulphur, it will suit those sensitive to this preservative or preferring their wines au naturel. (From rippon.co.nz)

Seresin Home Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 - $95

From the well-established home block of this Marlborough biodynamic pioneer comes this fabulously fragrant pinot noir, with exotic spices and rose to the fore in its silky cherry fruited and earthy toned palate. (From seresin.co.nz)

Coal Pit Tiwha Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 - $42

Coal Pit are based in Central Otago's cooler Gibbston Valley region, which has produced a svelte and savoury pinot, with layers of meat, thyme, florals and ripe concentrated dark fruit. (From coalpitwine.com)

The Crater Rim Lot Seven Waipara Pinot Noir 2010 - $58.90

A very fine reserve pinot noir from a higher limestone-rich hillside site, which weaves complex threads of star anise, soy and florals around a tightly coiled and vibrantly fresh mineral core. (From Caro's.)

Loveblock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 - $39.95

After selling his eponymous wine company, Kim Crawford, and his wife Erica, set up their own organic/biodynamic estate, which has just launched its wines. The inaugural Loveblock pinot noir from its Bendigo Block is a highly aromatic example with notes of jasmine, violet, spice and smoky bacon infusing rich, silken and fresh red berry fruit. (From Glengarry.)

Schubert Marion's Vineyard Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2010 - $50

Shubert's Marion's vineyard has been producing increasingly notable pinots, such as the superbly silky 2010 vintage with its pretty cherry and cranberry fruit, fragrant spice and suggestion of forest floor. (From Fine Wine Delivery Company, The Village Winery, Bottle & Wines Chancery, Bottle-O Ellerslie.)

Maude Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010 - $34-$36

A powerful, muscular but velvety textured pinot noir, with dense black cherry and umeboshi plums, notes of dark chocolate, roasted spice and a savoury undercurrent. (From Caro's, Glengarry and selected fine wine stores.)

Puriri Hills Estate Clevedon 2008 - $45

Some of the country's most graceful reds hail from this estate in the hills southeast of Auckland. The 2008 blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and carmenere is no exception, with its finespun palate of concentrated but restrained dark berry fruit, herb and sandalwood underpinned by ripe powdery tannins. (From greatlittlevineyards.com, Fine Wine Delivery Company, Puriri Hills cellar door, Clevedon.)

William Murdoch Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2010 - $31.95

One of the few certified organic vineyards in Hawkes Bay, newcomer William Murdoch is producing a range of impressive reds, such as this brooding and well-structured blend with its notes of dense dark berry fruit, cocoa and violet. (From murdochwines.co.nz)

Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2011 - $23.99

Consistently delivering bags of beautiful fruit at an affordable price, Esk Valley's entry level red blend again excels with the 2011's vivid, juicy and plump dark berry fruit, infused with incense-like notes of oak. (From grocery and fine wine retailers.)

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 - $32.99

The McDonald Series is a recent premium addition to the Church Road range. Its highly perfumed syrah-exuding notes of rose and exotic spice over concentrated and fresh plum and prune fruit. (From selected fine wine retailers, restaurants and from the Church Road cellar door.)

Pask Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Syrah 2010 - $25

Plush and juicy plum fruit, notes of leather, freshly ground coffee and a savoury element combine in this flavoursome and affordable syrah from Pask. (From Glengarry.)

Pelissero Nebbiolo Langhe Piemonte 2009 - $42.50

Barolo and Barbaresco may make some of the best known wines from the great Nebbiolo grape, but the wider Langhe district is also producing worthy examples. This is illustrated by this classic expression with its essence of tar, earth and florals over rich blackberry fruit supported by firm but ripe tannins. (From Fine Wine Delivery Company, Point Wines.)

Finca Consancia Parcela 23 Single Vineyard Tempranillo, Castilla 2011 - $26.85

Spain has become the source of some of the world's most engaging and affordable wine in recent years. For a taste of the action, try this juicy tempranillo with its pure and opulent bottled blueberry fruit and suggestion of herb and vanilla. (From First Glass, Accent on Wines, Liquorland Newmarket.)


WHAT'S IN A YEAR?

Every year Mother Nature throws something different at winegrowers, meaning in cooler climates like ours in particular, there can be distinct differences in wine styles between vintages. However, good producers will often still make decent wines even in the toughest years. Wines selected here are from a mixture of dream harvests to more challenging seasons. This year's vintage is under way across the country, and most regions are reporting near-perfect conditions. But with the weather always waiting to throw a curve ball from the wings, most winemakers won't be counting their blessings before all their grapes are safely picked.


BEST BUYS

Bubbles by Lobetia NV - $14.99-$16.99

A Spanish organic sparkler made from chardonnay excels at this price with its refreshing palate of crisp apple, tropical fruit and touch of almond. (From Farro Fresh.)

Haha Marlborough Sauvignon 2012 - $15.99

An explosion of herb and lemon zest await on this passion fruit packed sauvignon blanc that punches above its weight at this price. (Stockists include Mairangi Bay Fine Wine, Farro Fresh, Moore Wilson, Village Wine Trader, Advintage.)

Delta Pinot Noir 2010 - $24.99

Made from the joint venture of Britain-based Master of Wine David Gleave and respected Marlborough winemaker, Matt Thomson, the Delta's smooth and juicy upfront cherry and raspberry fruit make this one of the most appealing sub-$30 pinot noirs on the market. (From Village Winery, Fine Wine Delivery Company.)

Montes Classic Colchagua Valley Malbec 2011 - $18.90

You get a big bang of brooding, rich fruit for your buck in this full-bodied and velvety textured Chilean red, with its notes of dark berries, herb, smoke and spice. (From Glengarry.)

Sherwood Estate Stratum Waipara Valley Riesling 2011 - $16.95

Sitting comfortably alongside far more expensive examples, there's remarkable concentration to this sweeter riesling with its voluptuous but fresh palate of honey, peach, grapefruit zest and spice. (From Advintage, Hamilton Wine Company, Glengarry, Fine Wine Delivery Company, Cambridge Fine Wines, Scenic Cellar, Mairangi Bay Fine Wines and Kohi Corner bottle store.)

L'Ameillaud Vin de Pays de la Principaute d'Orange 2010 - $16.95

Grenache, syrah and carignan make up this hearty blend from France's Rhone region in which mouth-filling chocolate-dipped black cherry fruit is seasoned with notes of dusty spice. (From wineimporter.co.nz)

Nugan Estate Third Generation Shiraz 2012 - $19.90

What's not to like about this pretty Aussie shiraz with its fresh and lifted red plum and raspberry fruit with a pinch of cinnamon spice? (From Glengarry.)

Tasman Bay Chardonnay 2010 - $18.99

From the stable of Nelson producer, Spencer Hill, this classy chardonnay exhibits attractive notes of fresh grapefruit, melon and oatmeal with a savoury, nutty undercurrent that lingers satisfyingly on the finish. (From Pak'n Save, New World.)

Pasqua Le Collezioni Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2011 - $14.90
Soft, round and fruity, this easy-drinking Italian number boasts blueberry laced with spice, salami and some food-friendly tannins. (From Glengarry.)

Te Awa Left Field Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2010 - $19.99

Now under the ownership of Villa Maria, Te Awa continues to make one of the most reliable entry-level red blends, with the 2010 boasting supple dark berry fruit with decent weight and a hint of herb and violet. (From fine wine outlets.)


EURO BARGAINS

The current exchange rate with the euro means there are many bargains to be found among European wines. Good places to scope out include Spain, southern France and Italy.


How the wines were selected: The wines for the Viva Top 50 were chosen by Viva Wine Editor, Jo Burzynska from new and recently tasted releases. These represent a selection of her highest ranked wines across all price levels, which wherever possible were tasted blind.

- VIVA

- NZ Herald

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